cover image Revenge of the Star Survivors

Revenge of the Star Survivors

Michael Merschel. Holiday House, $17.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3667-5

In this entertaining and empathic debut, an intrepid hero searches for intelligent life in the most dangerous place of all: middle school. Eighth grader Clark Sherman is forced to transfer to Festus Middle School after the year has started, thanks to his father’s new job. Faced with a hostile environment filled with bullies and unfriendly adults, Clark frames his daily misadventures as a fraught space mission, à la a captain’s log: “While walking from science to social studies today, I had to pass through a hallway that is a nesting ground for some of Planet Festus’s most vicious native inhabitants.” After finding unexpected allies in two other outcasts, the paranoid Les and acerbic Ricki, Clark and his new friends discover that there’s something shady about their authoritarian principal and the bullies he’s protecting. Debut author Merschel uses Clark’s SF passions—from everything from Star Wars to his favorite (fictional) show, Star Survivors—as a smart metaphor for coping with change, but the real heart of the story is in its complex characters, tongue-in-cheek tone, and emotional honesty. Ages 10–14. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Mar.)